Tom Ford into Zomby

While Jay-Z’s latest album was mostly filled with disappointment, it did include this gem of production by Timbaland and J-Roc. The part that interests me most though is how closely it taps into the stuttered 8-bit sound that dominated Zomby’s One Foot Ahead of the Other EP. Not that Tom Ford is a ripoff, but it makes you wonder what Zomby could do if he tried to produce beats to be rapped on.


Mos Def redefined the rap live show last night

Mos Def: making avant-garde hip hop appeal to a mainstream college audience

I’ve been to a few hip hop shows in the past. Not nearly as many as punk, indie rock, or electronic shows, but still, a few. Mos Def’s show last night at USC’s Springfest ’11 was like nothing else.

I’m about as knowledgeable about Mos Def as the average guy off of the street; that is, I know “Ms. Fat Booty,” “Sex, Love & Money,” and I’ve seen a movie or two he’s been in. I can’t comment on how many of the songs he played – or flowed through – last night are his, but whatever it he was playing couldn’t have sounded more like the high-brow rap innovator that he is in my mind.

For the first fifteen minutes, I was waiting for a song I recognized to come from the DJ (we’d just finished a set by MURS who covered Rage and The Bangles). But when songs blended together and lasted ten minutes with extended interludes of Mos improvising over muddied beats removed of any mid or treble tones, I just went with it.

An anecdote: During the dead pause between two songs, someone in the crowd was repeatedly yelling, “Ms. Fat Booty.” Mos turned to face the guy and said, “Hey, this ain’t a jukebox show.” That pretty much sums it up.

The word to describe the set: weird. It wasn’t fun, but I loved it. I’m not sure if this is the best comparison, but it was what Portishead would do if for some reason Beth wanted to rap. It was fantastic.

OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) #coachella2011

The Odd Future collective just DGAF

Is it wrong that I think of Odd Future as 2011’s Die Antwoord with way more staying power? Regardless, that’s how I approach these guys.

Quick facts: OFWGKTA stands for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, which is shortened to Odd Future. Odd Future is a collective of about ten 17-23 year-old rappers and producers seemingly headed by Tyler, the Creator.

I first listened to Tyler, the Creator’s “Yonkers” after seeing Kanye West’s tweet declaring the video for the song “The video of 2011.” I have a thing for stark, simple, black-and-white videos (“Single Ladies“, “My Love“, “Drop It Like It’s Hot“, “On To The Next One“, I could go on…), and “Yonkers” keeps pace with the rest. It’s unique, and it keeps with Odd Future’s reputation as spouting shocking and ridiculous imagery through their lyrics.

The collective has been quite prolific since late 2008 (Pitchfork has a great review of their mixtapes), but hadn’t garnered a ton of attention until late last year. I’ve only just started going through the mixtapes and watching their performance at SXSW, but I’m hooked. I can’t pass up the allure of young energy breaking new ground without much regard for their elders. I’ll definitely be catching their set at Coachella this year.

Update: Pitchfork just posted an interview with Odd Future. It’s loaded with gems. My favorite is…

Pitchfork: Did you ever imagine you’d be playing at festivals like Coachella and SXSW a year ago?

Tyler, the Creator: I didn’t even know about Coachella a year ago. I knew about SXSW because N.E.R.D. played here. It was never my goal or intention to play one of those, and I never realized how important it was until recently. I’m a believer that if you keep saying shit’s gonna happen it will. Like, I always talked about how I wanted a trampoline, and now I have one.

Update 2: If this isn’t the best interview ever…

Die Antwoord’s $O$, confused yet?

Die Antwoord's debut album $O$

AMG describes Die Antwoord as representing “the Lady Gaga Era’s dark underbelly.” Spot-on.

From The Music Slut:

History of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, District 9, Die Antwoord. That’s it.

Like most everyone else on the interwebs, I’d seen the Die Antwoord videos as they came out and spread like wildfire. Then I saw them at their first US show in the Saraha Tent at Coachella for a 25 minute set before 2 many djs.

If you’ve seen the videos, you’re probably confused on many levels. After I saw them at Coachella, I was still confused.

Can you blame me?

Die Antwoord – Zef Side

Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

the new and improved (?) kanye west
the new and improved (?) kanye west

It seems that ragging on Kanye West for anything other than his oversized ego and inappropriate public outbursts was off limits. Rightfully so, in my opinion. He was a producer-to-the-stars before The College Dropout, and he has gone nowhere but up since that first album came out in 2004. Unfortunately, rap’s megastar has decidedly turned his back on the genre in some misguided attempt to save pop music. 

808s & Heartbreak

In all honesty, I wanted this album to blow me away. I enjoyed Kanye’s previous albums, and while I found it odd that everyone of his songs relied so heavily on sampled material, he is without a doubt mastered the skill. Just as I hadn’t really listened to a TON of Radiohead before In Rainbows, I wanted 808s & Heartbreak to make me fall in love with Kanye, to look past the asshole persona and see some genius inside. 

This album has 2 (maybe 3) songs that are single material and the rest are filler. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need 12 singles to think an album is good; I wouldn’t even say that one is necessary (ie. BT’s This Binary Universe). But an album of filler does not cut it for me.

The first single Love Lockdown, which Kanye premiered live at the MTV 2008 VMAs deserves some credit for delivering on what was promised. It’s a well-intentioned crack at a minimal pop song (but the hip hop still lurks somewhere in the background). As far as the Auto Tune goes, I think it’s used appropriately here as an instrument and not as a coverup for poor vocals. 

The same applies for the album’s second single Heartless. I love the breathy flute/woodwind stabs featured throughout the song. On top of that, I constantly find myself singing the chorus to this song. And I don’t really try to ever get it out of my head, it’s just catchy. Solid song (but let’s not get into the music video).

And that’s as far as the complements go. From Paranoid (featuring someone with a very average voice) on, this album was torturous for me to listen to. The formula of using Auto Tune over every vocal paired with simplistic beats constructed on a Roland TR-808 makes a couple interesting experiments, not an album. Taken as a whole, it seems that Kanye wanted to break molds, so for some reason he picked the effect that has framed T-Pain as a one-trick-pony and the drum machine that everyone in electronic music has used at one time or another to make beats. Maybe it’s me, but this combo does not scream experimental or pop in any way/shape/form. 

Picking out the biggest offender, I especially loath the song RoboCop. I cannot figure this song out for the life of me. The majority of the lyrics don’t make sense, and those that do are just ridiculous. Again, let me clarify that every song in my library isn’t a deep, introspective on human emotions. But when Spank Rock raps about Backyard Betty, it’s tongue-in-cheek. If Kanye is just having fun with his lyrics and don’t mean anything by the references to Misery, the joke was lost on me. Aside from the lyrics, I also can’t stand the music to the song. The strings and glittery bells belong in a Christmas compilation album, and at some point in the song, Kanye ditches the Auto Tune. He needed to keep it on (so I flip flop about the Auto Tune… maybe he just shouldn’t sing).  

In conclusion, this album will sell tons. The first two singles were carefully picked, and they are doing their job. This doesn’t really bother me, because tons of crap gets passed as quality on top 40 radio stations everyday, but I did expect more from Kanye. If you have the biggest ego in the world, you better have some quality material to back it up.

Song Ratings

fyi: I do not have a standard rating system. I know I’ve done ratings out of 10 in the past, but I figured it would be easier to list what I have rated each song in my iTunes library.

  1. Say You Will 2/5
  2. Welcome to Heartbreak 4/5
  3. Heartless 5/5
  4. Amazing 3/5
  5. Love Lockdown 4/5
  6. Paranoid 3/5
  7. RoboCop 2/5
  8. Street Lights 3/5
  9. Bad News 3/5
  10. See You in My Nightmares 2/5
  11. Coldest Winter 4/5
  12. Pinocchio Story ???

ps: Would it kill Lil’ Wayne to speak in a normal tone of voice for once?

Kanye West’s Daft Punk-aided Stronger video

I am no fan of Kanye West. Let it be known before you dive headfirst into this intriguing column of mine. He is cocky and irreverent of any other musical artist on the scene. Remember when he ran onstage to ruin Justice and Simian’s award for “We Are Your Friends”? No? Well that was my last straw, and the video is after the jump.

So, this new video for Kanye West’s song “Stronger” has been talked about for a long time. It has a Daft Punk sample! It’s an expensive video! It’s off his new album! Directed by Hype Williams! Too bad the video amounts to some eye candy and a plot just as confusing as Justin Timerlake’s “SexyBack”… Putting Daft Punk in BOTH your song and video is quite a feat, but it won’t get you video of the year.

The video features some futuristic looking animation with Kanye being reborn by some kind of a Matrix-type machine. It looks cool, but it’s a bit literal of a translation of the song title. Like I said, Daft Punk is sweet anywhere they are placed. Kudos for that one. The sun(?)glasses are equally awsome; I wish I had some. Here is the part that frustrates me: the lack of continuity. There are some great scenes, but they don’t amount to anything. The video for “Jesus Walks” was amazing because it told a story (all three versions were powerful). I don’t feel that there is anything holding “Stronger” together.

Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight

Linkin Park - Minutes To Midnight CoverYou ask for my guilty pleasure, and I will respond Linkin Park. I have loved them since Hybrid Theory; although I admit that I didn’t get “Crawling” the first time I heard it. This “nu-metal” sound wasn’t something that I was hooked on. Korn and Limp Bizkit were nowhere to be found in my music collection. Looking back at a time when pop music was *NSYNC or Britney Spears, Linkin Park offered me my first taste of what breakbeat or turntablism or metal or anything in between might be. In no way am I saying that they are the epitome of any of these styles, but with tiny bits thrown in here and there, teen angst and a tad of electronica struck a chord in my musical soul.

Now to this album, or how it compares to LP’s previous two. Let it be known that I had high expectations for Minutes to Midnight. I loved the complexity of Meteora when compared to Hybrid Theory, but Hybrid Theory‘s raw edges drew me in too. Alongside the many critics and fans of LP, I believed that the rapping needed to find a different place after Meteora was done. Here, it has done just that. It is only featured in two or three tracks (but only one of those benefit from it).

Let’s start with my favorite tracks: “Given Up”, “Bleed It Out”, “No More Sorrow”, and “Shadow of the Day”. If you have listened to the album, you will know that all but “Shadow of the Day” are fairly heavy, fast paced songs. “Bleed It Out” is the above-all winner on this CD. It does feature Mike’s rapping (with profanities, see the PA sticker?); it is a showcase of what LP is. It has a very long buildup, but the slow addition of instruments as the song builds makes the climax even better. “Shadow of the Day” is the track that I feel shows the maturity of LP the most. It is slower, and its calculated nature is impressive to say the least.

The pacing of the album seems to have some rhyme or rhythm until the pattern of fast song/slow song goes on one too many times (around track 7: “Hands Held High”). Then we hit “Valentines Day”, and any hope of another fast-paced hard rock song is lost forever; this track sucks. The biggest disappointments are “Hands Held High” and “The Little Things Give You Away”. Why would anyone pick this song to close their “mature” album? It’s slow, cliche, and boring.

As to the criticism that LP has diluted their material with ambient electronic landscapes, I have no idea where those ideas are coming from. Meteora was the electronic album. Minutes to Midnight is the rock album. Minutes to Midnight is a good album, but I don’t feel that it is the best album that LP could have put out right now. It’s a tad disappointing, I really wanted my next guilty pleasure album…

Coachella 2007: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers Heads

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been a staple in my music collection from as far back as I can remember (not of my own volition in the beginning.) Their great amalgam of funk metal, punk, rap, and pop makes a sound unique from anything around them throughout their current 24 year career. While their first two records didn’t do too much regarding chart success, from Mothers Milk on, success has followed them wherever they go.I want to spend the most time on album #5: Blood Sugar Sex Magic. My favorite album, and judging from chart success, may other’s as well. Having been produced by Rick Rubin, it almost seems obvious that it would be an amazing record, and having sold 12 million copies worldwide, there is no doubt that this is one of the greatest rock albums (of all time). This album is pure energy and fun. Heavy bass emphasis puts funk at the forefront of the record with Anthony Kiedis’ rap sharp and powerful lyricism. “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge” are two amazing singles that showcase the creativity put into every song on the record.Moving on to the following albums, Californication was an even larger chart success than its predecessors with singles like “Californication”, “Scar Tissue”, and “Parallel Universe”. To date, it has sold 15 million copies. Californiation allowed RHCP to basically clean up at the 2000 MTV VMAs (and win a few Grammys at the same time.) Skipping past By the Way, which is another great record, we arrive at Stadium Arcadium.So much hype surrounded this album that I didn’t think that it could live up to what it was supposed to be, and in my opinion, it didn’t. There is no denying that the amount of awards that Stadium Arcadium has garnered speaks volumes about its success as a pop album, but I feel that RHCP left their sound behind them and replaced it with some cotton candy and bubblegum. I don’t feel that it’s a bad album, I just hope that they play more than Stadium Arcadium at Coachella…